Offbeat Bride caused me to lower my expectations, and I’m okay with that

Guest post by Sabrina
Photo by La Mariposa
Photo by La Mariposa

Have you ever tried to plan a wedding before? This shit's expensive! I had no idea the costs of things until I started finding out empty buildings with nothing included are $3500 for four hours and a sit-down meal is $75 per person. Suddenly, being a couple of social butterflies seems like a huge financial burden.

We started planning the wedding and our less than $5K affair was suddenly a $10K bash and rising — with no idea how we'd pay for it. So we scaled back down. We revisited what we were doing. We switched our venue to a more affordable one that allowed us to provide our own food and drink. We cut our costs back down to a reasonable, and affordable, number.

If you had talked to me a couple of years ago and said things like “backyard wedding” or “potluck dinner,” I would have smiled and said that was “lovely… for someone else.” Now though? Things are different. I'm a different person in a different relationship with different circumstances.

And I'm a part of a different community. I have read so many incredible wedding stories on Offbeat Bride and I have been moved by Every. Single. One. I have seen hundreds of beautiful pictures from weddings along every possible end of the budget, quirkiness, and DIY spectrums. The pictures are gorgeous but it's the words that really get me. I read about the weddings and feel like I'm connecting with strangers because I am moved by the emotions they are able to portray in such a short summary of a momentous day.

So when I told my partner that we could do a pot luck dinner and that it wouldn't “ruin” the day, I meant it. Or when my mom offered to find a way to throw it at her house if need be, it didn't sound like a horrible idea. Not that we had some incredibly lavish affair planned anyway but cutting back after already cutting back is obviously going to change the festivities.

But you know what wouldn't change? The guy standing across from me. Our vows wouldn't change. Our feelings wouldn't change. The way that he looks at me as I walk toward him ready to become his wife wouldn't change. The most important part of this wedding to me is that he is there.

It's a sentiment that is constantly echoed around Offbeat Bride, that the most important part of whatever fantastically eccentric and unique extravaganza you plan is the love shared between the two people the day is centered around. It's an idea that I thought I identified with before but didn't fully commit to until just recently. Until it really mattered.

As we get closer and closer to our October nuptials, I find that the vision of the wedding continues to evolve but the players have never changed. It's not about the food or the bouquets. It's not about the centerpieces or the venue. Those are special additions to a day that is about us. To be clichรฉ about it, it's the first day of the rest of our lives together — as husband and wife.

Practicing what you preach can be difficult at times, but now, pressed with that exact task, I have found myself with lowered expectations about what the wedding looks like and not in bad way. Do I have ideas about things like the atmosphere and the lovely people we would like to join us? Absolutely, but they aren't the top priority.

What matters most is that on that day, he shows up to greet me at the end of the aisle and he means every word that he says. Ultimately, what matters most to me is that he is there. It's that simple. And I really, truly, mean that. And I am grateful that I do.

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Comments on Offbeat Bride caused me to lower my expectations, and I’m okay with that

  1. This made me cry a bit! I’ve just got engaged and the expense is scaring me a little. This just reminded me that it’s about our love, not getting every little detail ‘perfect’. Thank you.

    • that’s why I’m planning an elopement. $2500 is our budget for the honeymoon/wedding. Ya’know our honeymoon in the town two hours from home. It’s gonna be beautiful, short, sweet and everything we need and want. The family will get to see the video of our ceremony at a dinner my sister is insisting on throwing! =)

  2. I love that you said everything can change but the guy standing across from you. So many brides get caught up in having every detail that the budget is spent 2X and the marriage is an afterthought.

  3. Good for you! we had a VERY budget wedding, and it was amazing. Splash out on stuff that matters most to you and figure out the rest. ($500 venue? ouch, but yes! $7 thrift store dress, YES YES YES! making our own food and cupcakes instead of a wedding cake and dinner? YES! A dry wedding? yes please! )
    I have no doubt your day will be amazing. If you need a little encouragement you can check out our $1200ish wedding right here.
    Some friends and family baulked at the idea that we were doing without so much, but they certainly were not offering to pony up the cash (and we wouldn’t have let them.) I just repeated my mantra, “what is important is BEING MARRIED, the wedding is just to share that with you. How could that not be lovely?”

    • Thank you for sharing this, and your “number”. I’d really like to see more price tags on weddings. I fall in love with weddings that seem simple, pared-down and sweet, only to discover that they’re still $10,000 affairs. Seeing photos of realistically do-able weddings is just as important as getting *inspired*. Even with DIY projects, every added detail to the wedding day is added cost. It’s so nice to be able to KNOW what a wedding in your own price range looks like on sight.

    • Thank you for sharing! The parasols are fantastic and everyone looks so happy! Looking at the pictures all I see is smiles ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Seeing your numbers is a huge relief to me! We also managed to snag a $500 venue, which is still a large number, but considering it includes the day before to set-up, the entire day of, and half of the following day to clean up, it’s a pretty darn good amount. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’m hoping that, through all of our other DIY and craftiness, we can keep our final total close to yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I got married last weekend! We went to Stockholm and had a simple ceremony in the city hall! We had three guests, I wore a lovely dress but not white so one I can wear again. I did my own hair, made my bouquet and bought a flower for my grooms jacket an hour before. We had photos taken in the old town just us and our lovely photographer. We went for an intimate meal in the evening. We had no stress, nothing worry about but us! It was perfect, calm and very memorable and it didn’t cost anyway near as much as a traditional wedding! The day was entirely for us and organised by us! He is the love of my life and that’s what matters.

  5. Exactly!! I feel the same way, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s less about lowering expections and more about re-prioritising them. And I can’t thank all the other OffbeatBrides enough for that.

  6. WOW!
    I could have totally written this myself! Hit with the sticker shock of an $8000 venue with a $2000 food minimum, (not including anything else) we realized there was no way we could afford such extravagance without selling a limb or organ or two. Even the October wedding date. Wow! Sista we are two peas in a pod.

    I thought about what was most important to us, the two of us, that is really what it’s about. After going to my brothers wedding and watching those two kids sweating in the sun in front of 200 people they barely knew… and knowing that it put them $20,000 in debt…
    Yep, that is not for us. After boycotting the idea of planning a wedding for a few months I came down to this, I want to have fun and I want my shy mild-mannered husband to be comfortable. We always said that if we were to get married it would be about the two of us and a celebration of our life together. If its in our backyard with our two Boston terriers under foot, my dads prime rib on the rotisserie, moms potato salad, and some homebrew around a fire pit… I will be happy. It may not be a wedding you see in magazines, but it’s mine and as long as we are together and surrounded by love, that’s all that matters.

    • Our original venue had a $3500 food/beverage MINIMUM – but they also include 29% in various taxes (did I mention the local restaurant tax is only %7.5?). Crazy! Yay October weddings – you had me at potato salad and homebrew – what’s the dress code? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Great perspective! I’m glad more brides and grooms are thinking about mindful spending. Starting off a marriage in a mound of debt sounds very stressful. Kudos for thinking about the marriage, not just the wedding.

  8. My wedding expectations changed after I was in my cousin’s wedding, and she was complaining about being “out of money.” I saw what I knew could be cut, what I knew would not be important, what I knew could drag me down that path of No More Money! I’m so happy we had a grocery store catered buffet in the church fellowship hall! No uplighting? no problem! I’m so glad we used a church member to cater the desserts! I’m so glad we didn’t spend oodles of money on “stuff” that had no meaning to us.
    My step-daughter keeps saying “When I get married…” and I keep thinking how much that statement will change over the years.
    Thank you for this article!

    • Yes! Yes! Yes!
      Being part of a wedding while planning my own really put the priorities into perspective. Rather than having the competitive reaction of bigger, better, faster, more… I was like, “We got a house payment and two car payments to make”, monogrammed shot glasses are just not on the high priority list. And when it’s all said and done nobody even remembers that stuff but instead the time shared, the moments, the laughter.

  9. Great article, restores my faith in the weird. Interestingly, I feel kind of the opposite as the contributor. The year plus I spent on OBT contributed a lot to my conviction that as long as our wedding was very “us”, that it would be fantastic, and our family would have fun and be proud of the event we planned. In the last week or two before it, most of my nearest and dearest were really dismissive of the projects I was trying to finish. Somehow I lost control of it, and allowed other people to convince me not to care about things that I wish I had stood up for. Like the instruction cards for how to find our secret hidden guestbook. (nobody knew what was going on, and the 100 stamps hubby spent a year carving didn’t even get used) Or delaying the ceremony by 15 minutes so we could get at least a few wedding photos out back before the sun went down. (didn’t get a single formal wedding photo of the two of us) Or insisting we test out the ceremony music CD on the sound system. (didn’t work) Well, the trip to the courthouse a year ago may have been for us, but in hindsight, our wedding was for our family. Though a lot of our guests had a great time, I’m pretty sure the parents were either embarrassed and/or disappointed. My expectations may have been comfortably lowered, but my parents’ weren’t. My wedding is now a big pink elephant in the room. If anyone talks about it, everyone gets awkward.
    In the grand scheme of the ups and downs of a relationship, the wedding happened when hubby and I were feeling pretty at odds with each other, and I didn’t have any of the wonderful feelings of bonding and togetherness that I expected. The downs come back up, of course, and we are doing fine…but the wedding itself was a very surreal and altogether unpleasant experience, and I felt overlooked and left out.

    • Thanks for this – ups and downs of weddings are seldom reflected upon….. I appreciated your comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I agree with Belladonna – it’s always humbling to hear real stories of the not-so-perfectness of weddings too and I think it helps everyone to keep perspective.

    • I’m sorry you felt left out of your own wedding. ๐Ÿ™ That’s the biggest dread I have about oursโ€“ we’re both so unique and our families don’t seem to ‘get’ us, so I’m hyper on top of figuring out what we want and doing it before someone else can throw money at us and say “Now do it my way.”

    • *hugs* That really sucks. I’m so sorry you came out of your wedding feeling like it was such an unpleasant experience.

      Actually- while my own recent wedding was such a fabulous day, I experienced so many different emotions: I felt tired, irritated, awkward, overwhelmed and, yes, very stressed. I was happy, of course, but sometimes negative emotions cropped up…and looking back on them, I freaked out and was all like, “NO! It was meant to be the happiest day of my life!”

      I think in society women are told that their wedding is the happiest day of their lives, no question. Mine was amaazing- but it was definitely peppered with emotions I wish I hadn’t felt. But, you feel however it is you feel, y’know? So yeah…this struck a chord with me, for sure.

    • That’s awful! I’m sorry you had to go through such a trying experience on the day you were supposed to be the happiest.

    • I’m sorry your wedding was not how you had hoped but I appreciate you being honest and sharing that wedding days often come with a whole range of less-than-perfect moments and emotions. I can certainly relate to what you wrote and it helps ease the anxiety a bit to know that others have felt the same way.

  10. Uh-huh!! When we were planning our wedding, our mantra was “we’re going home married” – I knew that almost everything could go wrong (and plenty did) and it wouldn’t matter because we were GOING HOME MARRIED!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s wonderful to to hear about couples really holding onto the elements of a wedding that really matter and not the stuff that will be gone even before the day is over.

  12. There is such a lot of pressure to do the traditional thing and all the trimmings… It’s so not important. There is no rule book to say you have to have the big venue, the big dress, etc… It certainly does not guarantee a long and happy life. Keep love simple. The essence of who you are together is what is important and that can’t be bought!

  13. I had tears in my eyes while reading this. You are exactly right! The venue, the food, the ideas for your wedding might change but what won’t are the people involved. My partner and I are making many changes to our original vision to suit our budget, and this was the perfect reminder that no matter what changes, we are still us getting married in the end. Thank you for this!

  14. Loved this! I have the same feelings, although, for different reasons. I am at a place in life where I COULD do the bigger wedding, but I dont want to any more. There are more important things I would like to do with that cash. Most of it would really be just hosting a giant party for my friends and family. NOT that there is anything wrong with that, but fiance and I already live together, have our own home, and really want to spend the money on traveling…I like feeling that its OKAY to NOT have a big fancy affair…

  15. Not sure it’s lowering expectations, just realising that your wedding isn’t going to be the white pouffy big huge thing and that whatever you want is good too.

    • I chose to use the phrase “lowering expectations” because it has such a negative connotation but I wanted to use it as a positive statement. I never had a lavish plan for the wedding but started to get caught up for a bit in the grandiose vision of it all. I wanted everything and I wanted everything perfect. To me, lowering my expectations means coming down to having a wedding in the real world and not expecting some sort of fanciful, perfect to the tee sort of day. Rather, expecting only what it most important – that my fiance will be there and be happy to do so – and hoping the rest goes as best it can.

      • That’s called being realistic. You don’t have to “lower” your expectations…just change them to fit reality.

  16. **heart**

    To this day I wish we had a reasonable way to have a potluck or hold it in someone’s house (although I did love our venue and food, it was expensive).

    We couldn’t do a potluck because most guests were coming from a distance, despite it being a “hometown” wedding. Only my parents and grandparents live near where we held it – everyone else had to fly or take the train in and find hotels. You can’t do potluck when people have to travel and have no access to kitchens.

    We couldn’t do an at-home wedding because neither I nor my husband’s parents had homes that could accommodate so many guests (and we had no way to cut the list – and guests we didn’t want to cut were more important to us than doing it at home anyway). Both have either small (his) or rugged and unsuitable (mine) backyards and just one bathroom, and his parents’ home was too far away for my grandmother to attend. Neither has enough space inside for more than 25 guests, max. That wouldn’t even cover my “close” relatives!

    So, with sadness, I said “goodbye” to the at-home potluck and ponied up the cash.

    • Me. Too.


      We’re getting a lot for our money and some of the money is getting spent because other people want specific things and it’s not like what we’re spending would make any kind of dent in a down payment where we live. And no one has a workable backyard. But still.

      • Same here. We hired a hall with catering facilities, perfect for potluck, but nobody was willing to help us with it – including my stepfather who is a caterer – so we gave up and forked out the cash. And because the cheaper catering options don’t appeal to us at all – I freaking hate spit roasts – the food is going to cost $5000 by itself. Sigh.

  17. this is the article I’ve been trying to write–we are the same person having the same wedding. thank you so much for articulating what I’ve been trying to!

  18. It’s funny, OBB raised my expectations somewhat. Not in terms of expense but in terms of possibilities. On the other hand, I’ve been watching the wedding show My Fair Wedding but it hasn’t raised my expectations at all. I enjoy seeing what David does but to me it’s like going to a play, I enjoy the sets but have no desire to put them in my own home.

  19. This is a very timely article for me. Thanks so much for sharing it! I’m the only one who wants all of those expensive and totally worthless things that the WIC wants me to have! My FH is a lot more concerned with the budget and feels more comfortable with the idea of a barbecue so we’re going with that. We also have a lot of out of town guests, but I”m considering asking my family and his family who lives in the town where we’re getting married to make the side dishes to go with the barbecue in lieu of gifts..

  20. I feel exactly the same. I always imagined and dreamed of the big fancy wedding, but when the real planning started happening, I realized the picture I had in my head was never going to come true.
    Still, I don’t care what it looks like now, I know I’ll feel pretty and loved no matter what, because HE will be next to me telling me. That’s all I really want. Goodbye caterers, orchids, Hawaii, hello Pizza and DIY projects!!!

  21. This article is a great example of my wedding planning motto: Have Fun, Be True! Yes, your wedding is about your love. Celebrating at home with a potluck is a gorgeous celebration of community. Your community will keep bringing you their “potluck” gifts over the years of your marriage, in the forms of their wisdom, witness, loyalty, and laughter. Kudos for a truthful and genuine article!

  22. My husband and I started to plan our wedding 6 years ago and quickly became overwhelmed by it all. We also were experiencing problems with our local friends, and two sides of my family hate each other, and my future father-in-law had just died (did I mention I was in my last semester of college?). Whew! Plus I just really really hate being the center of such girly attention (I know, I’m weird). We decided that our priorities were travel & photography, and told our moms that we were getting married in Hawaii — by ourselves.

    They agreed to this (somewhat surprisingly!) and that’s what we did. Just my husband & me, on a beach in Molokai, with the officiant and her husband. That’s it.

    When we came home from a 2.5 week Hawaiian honeymoon, we had professional photos taken at a unique shoot (our families were in town so they participated, and we trashed the dress) by one of SF’s best photographers. We do not regret our path for even one second. Sure, I didn’t have bridesmaids or a big party, but since I’m a wedding photographer, I get to experience a wide variety of them in my professional life, which more than makes up for it.

    This post made me tear up, and thank you for reiterating what is truly important: LOVE <3

  23. Love all of these comments. Our small intimate wedding (of just 3 guests and a photographer) in Stockholm was great, no stress and we still have a very healthy bank balance. I can highly recommend going ‘against the norm’ and just doing it ‘for yourselves’ it is at the end of the day all about the couple and love. Who needs the ‘norm’ when you can do something different that reflects the unique couple you are.

  24. OBB has helped me lower my expectations but also made me realize what things I won’t sacrifice. We are doing things relativley cheap, the most expensive thing being the venue because we wanted a weekend long bash instead of a one day party. But instead of having a caterer or a bar we are doing a casual BBQ and some mixed cocktail stations, kegs of beer, and a little bit of wine (boxed probably). A lot of the things I thought I HAD to have in the beginning are starting to seem over the top and unneccessary.

    I think sometimes the true reason to have a wedding gets lost in the shuffle of trying to make things our own personal idea of “perfect”.

    This a million times:
    “The most important part of this wedding to me is that he is there.”

  25. Thank you thank you thank you. This is so good to hear. I feel like OBB has changed my perspective a lot, too.
    When I first started to look at OBB I thought I was going to think, look at these people settling for less… backyard weddings… pffft. But then I looked at the weddings and I saw people having a blast, turning their weddings into their idea of the coolest party ever. And they are all so beautiful and happy! Look at these happy people! So in love!
    As my wedding planning progressed, I realized that our special day is OUR Special Day, and that we have the chance to throw a party for all of our loved ones. As I kept planning, I got farther and farther away from that Hollywood/bridal magazine vision of a wedding and saw more and more movement towards the kind of party I want to attend. Our wedding has totally transformed and our budget, surprisingly, has shrunk as it became more of our kind of party. See, we’re not bridal-magazine kind of people. We’re let’s-dance, let’s-eat, let’s-enjoy-nature people. And I am so, SO thankful to all the brides here who have shared their stories!

  26. Why do you have to “lower” your expectations? Try making your expectations realistic. Instead of going for the caterer that always does weddings that charges $75 a head, go to your favorite neighborhood restaurant, and they might do it for $10 or $15 per person. You don’t have to have a backyard or potluck wedding just because you lack funds. You just can’t lack creativity when planning a budget event, but you can do it if you are smart!

  27. I’d love to see an article on how to have a budget wedding if you don’t have a bunch of people able to give you free stuff. Cos we don’t, due to geographical isolation.

  28. HI, I read this post with a smile on my face. My fiance and I are planning our wedding for December with a $5K budget. It is our 2nd wedding for both of us and a mix of cultures and blending families so the whole thing could easily turn into a major catastrophe. So we took control and are doing it ourselves in our backyard, catered by our own woodfire pizza oven business with only immediate family and very close friends (80 people). Heaven help anyone who tries to discuss wedding plans with us – we are keeping it close to our chest to avoid the intrusion and ultimate headaches.
    We have both had the big white fluffy wedding before and take it from me, it is the celebration of your life together not the venue or the catering that matters. Paying back a wedding for years after the event is not good either. There will be no taffeta or tuile in sight at this wedding.
    trying to keep it real and about us ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Obb didn’t really lower my expectation but it taught me to match them up to my plans and my budget. She also taught me it was ok not to waste mine where I didn’t want to. We wanted a late night party with lots of dancing so We had no cake, no garter, no guest book, no cake topper, no special champagne flutes, and artificial flowers which made a huge dent in our budget for open bar and a top notch dj and safety buses. And anything our families had to have, they paid for.

  30. I needed to read this. I don’t think I have “low” expectations, but I definitely need to be comfortable with MY expectations which are lower than a lot of other people, especially in the face of the WIC. Financially, traditionally, all of that.

  31. Almost a year later, I am still happy about my $900 wedding. We planned it all in a month and threw a lovely small party at my Dad’s bar (I was lucky to have a free venue, I know!) My dress was made by me, and instead of flowers I decorated with peacock plums. Instead of a catered affair, we did a hoagie bar with different meats and veggies with a salad and cupcakes instead of a big cake. It was all beautiful and a lot of fun. There were a couple of mistakes but nobody remembers them anymore and in the photos all you see is a super happy couple in love. If someone gave me $5k to redo it all again, I would pocket most of the cash and still throw the same awesome party!

  32. I could have had a super cheap venue but it was outside and didn’t offer much room should the weather turn. I was going to rent a pavilion at a local park for $400…alas…

    I’m downsizing some, instead of using my friends mom who is one of DFW’s top florists I’m probably going to hit up an Albertson’s and buy up their flowers….and maybe a cake or two (instead of a vendor that I know who does amazing cakes). My fiancee is a supervisor there while he finishes school so we’ll get a discount. I am also leaning toward thrift store dresses for my maids. I had originally said I’d give them $100 visa gift cards for their spending but I might have to dial that back and hope they won’t be mad.

    I am beyond lucky though, my dad is paying for our wedding, but I still cringe at the figures we’re already looking at… even if it isn’t coming out of my pocket…

  33. With over 15 years experience in the wedding industry I have seen so many going into debt at the start is their marriage. That’s why my husband and I offer our farm: in NC at a very affordable cost with no stipulations on vendors. Pot luck even better,!

  34. We offer affordable venue and accommodations that fit well within the budget friendly range! Our place is in the mountains if North Carolina. I’ve been in the wedding industry for over 15 years and have seen so many go into debt just to be wed, NOT a good way to start out! That’s why we said, have a picnic, pot luck bring your own vendor or totally do it yourself! We want it to be your day on your budget! It’s great to hear that changing your expectation didn’t make it any less meaningful, and because you were able to pull it off with out financial stress, well you are in for a successful marriage. Congratulations!

  35. Oh the sticker shock on a Wedding! We’re still planning ours and finally found a Venue that worked. They do half price on Friday Weddings and in January to March they have severe discounts on per person food cost (normally over $50, ours is at $32). We were not planning a Winter Wedding at first, but it has turned into that. We are getting married 01/01/2016, it is a Friday so it is half price for the venue (only $500 which includes ceremony on site!).
    Do not give up on finding an affordable venue that you’ll love and make sure you look in places you would not expect would host a Wedding. We ended up finding ours through much searching and asking around. We’re at the Publick House in Sturbridge, MA. I never would have looked there if I had not gotten a recommendation from my Mom’s co-worker!
    We had wanted a Fall wedding, but the price of a Winter one in MA was too good to pass up.
    Another thing to consider is who you REALLY need there versus who you would LIKE there. We have made three or four versions of our guest list in Excell so we can figure out pricing for everything from the dinner to the invitations.

  36. I absolutely hate being extravagant with money…my whole thing is that it should be a good deal and reusable because I am trying to pay off student loans while the FH is still going to school and anything we don’t use can go towards our life together. Plus I had a bad bout with credit cards a few years back so interest rates and owing anything I can’t immediately pay off makes me cringe (can’t wait for when we finally buy a dwelling…). It seems like you slap “Wedding” on something and the price triples! Do I really like my family/friends enough to spend $30 dollars each feeding them? But I am fighting between spending the money and the fact that I really want to do something extravagant for once. We looked at several venues but even though we fell in love with one place, the price was simple too much to get everything else we wanted and stay in budget, so we are going with another place that is nice but about $1000 less. I was really irks by one place that wanted a $6000 min when my brother & wife got married there for under $3200. It wasn’t even as nice as other places that had minimums that were a third of theirs! The rep never even asked for my budget and practically kicked us out of there like we didn’t belong. On the upnote, it made our decision on a venue a lot easier.

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